As a part of a fun and exciting 7 days in Scottsdale, Arizona, my family and I golfed 150 holes. On top of that, we kayaked down Salt River and went off-roading on the beautiful red rocks of Sedona. We also rode a hot air balloon high above the desert floor.

Up, Up, and Away

Prior to leaving Texas, a couple of people recommended we book a trip with Hot Air Expeditions. Touted as “America’s Best and Largest Hot-Air Balloon Operation,” they’ve offered visitors the chance to experience something unique in Scottsdale and Monument Valley, Utah for 18 years. They offer morning flights year round and seasonal flights in the late afternoon. With three different-sized baskets that hold six, eight, or 12 people, each flight lasts about and hour to an hour-and-a-half. The trips are great for families, reunions, corporate events, or romantic getaways. You can take a romantic flight for two, propose a marriage, or tie the knot. How cool is that?

The flights are safe and suitable for anyone 5 years or older.

Our Hot Air Balloon Excursion in Scottsdale

We got up, excited and ready to go at 4:30 a.m., piled in the Hot Air Expeditions vans at 6:00 a.m.,and departed for our launch site.

Hot Air Expeditions uses multiple launch sites. The winds the morning of departure determine which one they use that day. Our site was north of Phoenix in the Pioneer Living History Village parking lot. It was an interesting 30 minutes of watching the pilots and balloon crews prepare and inflate the balloons for liftoff.

Our balloon was over 200 feet tall and held over 250,000 cubic feet of hot air, which was needed to lift the 10-person basket that were flying in. The sequence of pictures below shows the hot air balloon liftoff process.

unrolling the heavy 200
The 200' balloon waiting for some air
Capt. John getting our basket ready
Next comes the fan filling it with some desert air

Once the balloon is rolled out and the basket is hooked up, the balloon is filled with air by a couple of big fans. Then the pilots start the propane burners and fill it with hot air, load the passengers, and take off. On our trip, our balloon and one other took off within five minutes of each other.

The propane burners heat the air giving the balloon life
Getting the burners going
Heating the air
The propane flame heats the air, giving the balloon lift
Lots of heated air

Time for Lift Off

About ready to load some passengers

Once our hot air balloon was inflated, while it was tied tightly to a huge truck, with 4 flight attendants holding the balloon secure, all 10 of us passengers climbed into the basket. Our pilot (Capt. Patrick) fired up the propane burners and we slowly started our assent … directly toward a tall tree.

Having pricked a balloon with a pin and watching what happens, I glanced at Capt. Patrick to see if he saw the tree. He looked like he saw it, didn’t appear nervous about it, and proceeded to fly within 5 feet of touching it. All on purpose.

lift off and just missing the tree

We were amazed at how easily he was able to control the ascents and descents and rotate the basket 360 degrees to give us a variety of views at various elevations and heading different directions. Of course, he had no control over horizontal flight direction. He was at the mercy of the wind and where it wants to take the balloon.

Capt. Patrick took us up over the Pioneer Village, flew by the branches of a tree that we could touch, and crossed over the state prison. That made the guards a little nervous. They kept a close eye on us at all times as Capt. Patrick told us some good prison stories. After that, he flew us up and down from 5,000 feet catching different currents for a different direction over the desert.

Capt. Patrick was a wealth of information about ballooning, the desert, and the local area, and he had a couple of good tricks that he shows during the flight. He made me swear I would not disclose the secret to those tricks.

Hot air balooning is peaceful and quite and the views of the desert, wildlife, lakes, mountains, cities and skylines, and golf courses are amazing.

the other balloon 2,000 feet below us
Capt. john watching what he's doing
flying over the prison
our companion hot air balloon

Our Gourmet Hot Air Balloon Landing

After about an 90 minutes, you can see the chase cars heading out through the desert to where they think our hot air balloon would land. Lo and behold, we put down right next to them. We got out of our balloon and sat down to a breakfast prepared by a gourmet chef. It included chilled Champagne, orange juice (for good Mimosas), Quiche Lorraine, chocolate-filled croissants, soft cheese, and seasonal fresh fruit. It seemed very strange to be eating and drinking next to a 200′ balloon with 10 other people in the middle of the desert!

All too soon, we were loaded in the van and crossing the desert on our way back to our car. What a fun, unique, and thrilling adventure. Give it a try!

Read more about other great hot air balloon rides and other outside adventures.

A toast to our hot air balloon Capt John
Mike Sharp
Author: Mike Sharp

I have a passion for travel and outdoor activities, and now I'm enjoying retired life. I will continue my traveling, golfing, boating, and enjoying life all across the great state of Texas.

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